The advent of outsourcing and offshoring the reading of x-rays along with the emergence of artificial intelligence stimulates this Politico podcast to ask, “Are American radiologists' days numbered?” In interviews with Stefan Tigges MD professor of radiology at Emory University, and Rebecca Smith-Bindman MD, a professor at University of California-San Francisco, we get two very different perspectives. Dr. Tigges tells us the story of his usual work day and in doing so makes a inadvertent but powerful case for why radiology is ripe for disruption. He comes across as a deeply caring, honest, and dedicated physician. But he says that AI and offshoring have failed because these services can not fulfill the relationship side of the work he delivers. He explains that it’s just like Napster, which also failed (umm - what about Apple music or Spotify?) He describes days where he reads 40 CT scans and 150 plain xrays and must take breaks because of mental fatigue. Some CTs have a life-threatening finding visible on only a few of the 6,000 images he had to view. I’m no computer scientist, but this all sounds like a job for AI! In contrast, Dr. Smith-Bindman provides a more nuanced story of how AI will supplement or replace diagnostic skills of the human radiologist. So the radiologist will have to change the job she does, focusing more on developing the integrated treatment plan that emerges from the radiologic findings. Radiologists who are not open to change will be left behind, she predicts. The back-story here is that all medical specialties are ripe for some type of outsourcing or AI disruption.
Read: for a deeper perspective of humans vs. machines, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will